“Oh, there’s my lipstick,” Carol Schwartz says as I fumble my way into the backseat of her yellow Pontiac Firebird, nearly sitting on top of a bright pink tube. The backseat of Schwartz’s signature car has the makings of a mobile campaign office: there’s an extra pair of shoes under the driver’s seat, disheveled piles of campaign literature everywhere, a “Carol for Mayor” sign on the outside of the car, her son Doug in the passenger seat, and Schwartz herself driving the stick shift.
“If it weren’t for the car,” she says, “I wouldn’t get any attention.”
And today, Schwartz is going to need a miraculous—-biblical, even——amount of positive attention if she is going to pull off this mayoral race, her fifth bid for the city’s top office. Schwartz, a longtime former D.C. Council member with many accomplishments to her name, was ousted from office in 2008. Though she’s only polling at around 10 percent, she’s still got a lot of fond recognition among D.C. residents who remember her tenure in office. While there’s no question about how much love and enthusiasm she has for this city, she’s behind Muriel Bowser and David Catania in the campaign to run the fast-changing city next year.
“We just voted,” a couple, who Schwartz says are her neighbors, yells at her while she sits in her car in Adams Morgan. “I voted too. That makes three of us,” she responds.
Schwartz voted this morning at Goodwill Baptist Church in Kalorama. She pulled up with two of her adult kids in the convertible, top down, and made her way through a couple of photographers, voters, and a throng of people working for the absurd number of campaigns this election cycle. (Actually, she made her through the crowd a total of four times, because the first time she walked into the church, she forgot her glasses.)
“You look so good,” one woman told her. Schwartz responded that she was ready and able to serve as the city’s mayor. She traded some jabs with longtime Post reporter Paul Schwartzman, who wrote a piece on her for the paper earlier this month, which, in part, portrayed her as someone who could be seeking the mayor’s seat out of vanity. Schwartz seemed to be more OK with the piece than her son, who told Schwartzman he didn’t like it.
“Why’d you pick on Paul like that?” she asks him later, back in the car. She mentions twice, with varying degrees of humor, that Washington City Paper failed to endorse her for mayor. “You know they endorsed Catania?” she asks her son. (She says she’d have given me a ride to her other campaign stops if the paper had endorsed her, but instead she drops me in front of her apartment building after a ride around Adams Morgan. It’s only a joke, though: She explains that she’s got a tiny car and a volunteer who wants to ride along with her, too.)
Minus some qualms with the media, Schwartz seems to be having a blast on the trail. Confidently maneuvering the gearshift, she waves hi to all the neighbors she knows by name in her neighborhood, deploying her quirky, often times bubbie-like sense of humor. She says hi to her volunteers—-her son estimates they have at least 50 around the city working—-and pulls over when she spots a polling place on 18th Street NW that doesn’t have any “Carol” signs. She plans to cruise all around the city today with her family and volunteers, saying hi to voters, and whenever needed, putting up the signs, which are currently housed in her trunk.
“I’ve had people tell me they are voting for me because they like my car,” she says. “I can think of worse reasons to vote for someone.”
Photos by Darrow Montgomery